The Ballerina Mathematician

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Mar 08 2012

One Kid

We started state testing this week and it’s a more miserable experience than I recall from last year.  I did have one bright spot, which was then brightened even further today!  I like to write about the bright spots, and this one is a student.

To give you some background, S is a brilliant kid with low self-esteem.  My classroom theme is “brilliant mathematicians” and I repeatedly refer to him as one and he repeatedly corrects me.  I’ve gotten into arguments with him so many times – he says he’s a “bad kid” or that he cheated on that test he aced.  I tell him it’s due to his hard work that he got the highest score in the class (which it IS).  I tell him he’s a good kid – a great kid in fact.  It kills me that he argues back, but I have been giving him this positive message every chance I get all year long.

The thing is, there are other adults in the building that do think he’s a bad kid.  Anytime he interacts with our principal he gets in trouble.  As S puts it, they just “don’t get along.”  I’ve always gotten along with S, and I don’t understand why other people jump to anger when they see him (or why he does…I can’t say who got mad first but he has a lot of negative interactions with adults one way or another).

Anyway…this kid is awesome and he’s one of my favorites (shh, don’t tell).  Once, he raised his hand to get help with a problem and spent a good two minutes giving me a detailed and math-vocabulary-laced explanation of every step he had taken so far and then talked himself out of the mistake he’d made, realized it, and perfectly corrected it.  I teared up listening to him explain so thoroughly exactly how to do the math I’d taught him.

I could go on and on but the point is what happened this week.  He asked me if he could come in at lunch to get extra help with one of the learning goals from the last unit (um….YES).  I loved helping him because he gets things so easily.  When he was done we spent about 20 minutes hanging out and talking.  I told him my real age (which is a BIG deal – I never tell students that) and he laughed hard when I told him why I lie about being 43 when I’m 23 (it cracks me up that students believe me).  He talked about how he was bothered by the people that came in to tell his health class why marijuana was bad.  He didn’t give me the typically 8th grade argument of “weed isn’t that bad…I just know” but instead discussed the flaws in the research they had presented and why it made their data invalid.  It was so nice to have an informal conversation with such a smart, awesome kid.

It made my day,but the story gets better.  Today one of my City Year corps members (I need to write a blog later about how amazing they are!) relayed to me a conversation she had with S.  He told her that he really likes me, and she asked him why.  I would’ve been happy with just hearing that he likes me, but he went on to say  “she’s a really good teacher, and people don’t appreciate her enough.”  This. kid. rocks.  End of story.

I wish awesome things like this happened more often, and I wish I could let this kid know how much I appreciate HIM and how great he really is.

One Response

  1. ZG

    Beautiful story!

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a dancer's adventure in teaching math

Middle School

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